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Gaming Guru

Joe Weinert
 

Atlantic City News Round Up.

9 December 2002

ATLANTIC CITY -- Atlantic City casinos stretched their revenue-growth streak to 13 months in November, fighting through a weak economy and current-events uncertainty to post a 2.9 percent gain in winnings from gamblers.

The dozen casinos won $351.9 million last month, a gain of $10 million over the same month a year earlier, according to preliminary results. Revenue from slot machines increased 4 percent while revenue from gaming tables declined 1.2 percent.

The two Harrah's Entertainment casinos accounted for 80 percent of the industry's growth. Harrah's Atlantic City reported a 14.6 percent gain, to $37.4 million, while Showboat reported an 11.8 percent gain, to $31.3 million.

Trump Taj Mahal topped the revenue list at $43.5 million, up 4 percent. Trump Plaza apparently benefited from the Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward boxing match next door, with revenue rising 12.7 percent to $28.7 million.

Tropicana continued to feel the effects of widespread construction, with revenue declining 6.7 percent, to $32.1 million.

Through 11 months this year, casino revenue was $4.1 billion, or 3 percent ahead of last year's pace. Atlantic City's revenue-growth streak likely will end this month because it faces a difficult comparison to last year's record- shattering December.

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Thomas Auriemma became the 10th director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement when he took his oath of office before an auditorium full of gaming regulators, industry executives and others who follow the Atlantic City casinos.

Auriemma, 53, has been a gaming regulator for 25 years, including the last 10 months as acting director of the agency. He vowed to quicken approvals for gaming equipment, beef up the list of excluded persons and intensify investigations of casino suppliers.

He already started to improve the DGE's Technical Services Bureau, which tests new slot machines, cashless gaming systems and other equipment. In the past few months he's added four engineers, two statisticians and two field inspectors.

Slot manufacturers and their lawyers have long grumbled about New Jersey's slow approvals process, though it has improved over the past two years. Auriemma said he recognizes that it's important for Atlantic City casinos to offer the newest slot machines as soon as possible.

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A powerful New York mobster would be barred from setting foot inside any Atlantic City casino hotel if the Division of Gaming Enforcement gets its away.

The agency petitioned the Casino Control Commission to put Joseph Massino, an alleged boss of the Bonanno organized crime family, on the Exclusion List. George Rover, assistant attorney general for the DGE, said authorities believe that Massino is the most powerful mob figure in New York City.

Massino has bought about $500,000 in gaming chips at Atlantic City casinos since the early 1980s, mostly at Caesars, and still owes Caesars $15,000, Rover said. He has been convicted of racketeering, truck hijacking and labor-law violations.

The DGE said that Massino attended the 1984 wedding of Victoria Gotti, daughter of late Gambino boss John Gotti, and also attended the 1986 wake of Gambino captain Frank DeCicco.

The approved by the casino commission, Massino would be the 156th person to join the Exclusion List, which is dominated by cheaters and organized-crime figures. The Nevada List of Excluded Persons, by comparison, has 37 names.

The New Jersey and Nevada lists have only four names in common, all cheaters: Michael J. Balsamo, Ronald D. Harris, Brent E. Morris and John J. Vaccaro Jr.

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Dennis Gomes, president of resort operations for Tropicana parent Aztar Corp., will become president of the Casino Association of New Jersey next month. He succeeds Tim Wilmott, whose two-year term expires Jan. 1.

Wilmott is Eastern Division president of Harrah's Entertainment and next month will become the company's chief operating officer.

Gomes said his goals are to stop further hikes in Atlantic Cityís property-tax rate, marshal the casino industryís potential political clout locally and in New Jersey, and lobby for further deregulation.

The casino association is a trade group that represents Atlantic Cityís 12 casinos.

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A company overseeing construction of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa disclosed the secretive opening date for the property.

Or did it?

W.G. Yates & Sons, construction comanager for the $1 billion project, said on its Web site, completion is scheduled for June 2003.

But officials with Borgata and its chief parent company, Boyd Gaming of Las Vegas, wouldn't budge from their long-held 'summer 2003' projected opening.

In private, Borgata is targeting a late-June opening, according to people familiar with the plans.

(Joe Weinert covers the gaming industry for The Press of Atlantic City. He can be reached at jweinert@pressofac.com.)